In my years of playing NFL Fantasy Football – there has never been a season with so much unknown.
The top of the fantasy world is cluttered with question marks and uncertainties as we creep closer to draft day for most players.
Queries swirl around running backs Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy.
Bell is undoubtedly a point-scoring machine, particularly in PPR leagues, but he is set to miss the first four matches of the season due to a suspension for marijuana use.
As a guaranteed 16-match starter, Bell is my number one overall player but with a quarter of the season already wasted, his true value is unknown.
After a year from hell for Peterson owners in which he spent the majority of the season on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, arguably the NFL’s premier runner is back where he belongs with Minnesota.
His age is a concern but he did miss most of 2014 meaning his body should be fresh.
Those who select him will be made or broken by his output.
Murray had a historic season with Dallas in 2014, his last as a Cowboy.
Now he finds himself with NFC East rivals Philadelphia and running behind a much less certain offensive line.
The Eagles QB situation is also up in the air meaning more defenders will be assigned to stopping Murray on the ground.
Is he banged up from almost 500 touches last season or was that just a sign of things to come in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offence?
McCoy is yet another intriguing first round commodity.
Unlike last season – where I regrettably took him with the No.2 overall pick – ‘Shady’ is more likely to be a mid-first rounder but he would seemingly have top 3 RB potential.
The cards should fall his way.
New Bills coach Rex Ryan is a ground and pound coach likely to give McCoy as much work as he can handle whilst a seemingly elite defence should see the Buffalo O spend plenty of time on the field trying to burn clock and without a sure-fire passer.
Thankfully, there seems to be more security at wide receiver.
We know what Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, AJ Green and Odell Beckham Jr can do for us and we also know there is value later in the draft with up and coming youngsters in Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans, John Brown, Brandin Cooks and Jordan Matthews.
The only real concerns are on the health of Megatron, the less than likely distractions regarding contract situations on Julio and AJ as well as quarterback issues for Alshon Jeffery in Chicago, Green in Cincinnati and whether Jameis Winston can flourish for Evans in Tamp Bay.
Injuries aside – albeit we know injuries can and will occur throughout the season – the QB’s look formidable again in 2015 with Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck clearly the top two passing options.
Behind them, the contract-less Russell Wilson looks to be an even better option with Jimmy Graham to throw to in the red zone whilst Peyton Manning will still put up plenty of points with his bevy of offensive weapons.
As always, the Matt Ryan’s, Ben Roethlisberger’s, Drew Brees’ and Cam Newton’s of the world still possess great value later in drafts.
Here are my power rankings, a month out from training camps beginning;
1) Jamaal Charles (Kansas City) Many experts throw dirt the way of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for what he is not. I like to look at him for what he actually is. That’s a game manager and a winning QB.
He has a great defence on the opposite side of the ball and he has offensive weapons who carry the offence.
One of those is Charles, an offensive juggernaut who can reel you off points in a variety of ways.
A high ankle sprain limited him early in 2014 but his output was still sensational come season’s end.
He amassed over 1,000 yards rushing with nine TD’s and collected 40 receptions for almost 300 yards and five more scores.
He can break off huge 40-50+ yard runs for scores and he can consistently run for first downs as well as intermediate gains in the passing game.
Jeremy Maclin’s arrival will obviously mean Smith goes to the passing game a little more but Charles is still the man in Kansas City and coach Andy Reid will use him as much as ever before he hits the dreaded RB age of 30 in 2016.
2) Marshawn Lynch (Seattle) Much like Charles in Kansas City, Marshawn Lynch will have to deal with a new offensive target on his team.
Jimmy Graham joins the ‘Hawks and will receive his fair share of targets but Seattle is a hard-nosed football team which is led by the Legion of Boom secondary and Lynch’s bustling style out of the backfield.
Lynch always runs angry which makes him so hard to bring down but after being overlooked in last year’s Super Bowl from the 1-yard line, expect ‘Beast Mode’ to explode more times than not in 2015.
Lynch has 1,306 yards plus a whopping 13 touchdowns last year whilst he gave owners a bonus with a career-best four receiving TD’s and another 367 yards.
Lynch is near on 30 and plans to give up the game on his own accord but until then, expect him to thunder his way down the Century Link Field and into the end zone, even if Pete Carroll wants it another way!
3) Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) A difficult player to place, at his best Peterson sits atop this list comfortably.
He is a big, physical, elusive runner who looks likely to tear down field for a 50-yard score every time he touches the rock.
He is 30 years of age but effectively 29 as he sat out 99% of 2014 due to court proceedings following his arrest over child abuse.
In his last full 16-game season, Peterson broke the 2,000 yard mark and also had 40 receptions, a nice throw-in for PPR players.
Having yet to really play with Teddy Bridgewater, it will be interesting to see which way the Vikings offence leans but no matter what happens, when All Day gets the pigskin, expect bad things to happen to the defence.
4) Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) Erase Bell’s first three games of 2014 and he is still a top-five running back in the NFL.
His 2014 was just that good and that’s why – despite missing weeks 1-4 – he still sits in my top five players for the upcoming season.
He’s young (23), versatile and plays within a great system and seemingly gets what it takes to consistently play at an elite level.
His real value lays in his dual-point scoring abilities.
He still had almost 300 carries for over 1,300 yards but he also logged 80 receptions (1st amongst RB’s) for 854 yards and three scores despite the Steelers throwing to Antonio Brown almost every other time.
Bell’s receiving skills are comparable to most No.2 wideouts on other NFL teams whilst he always puts up his 80-100 yard rushing games.
Bell is as close as there is of a sure thing to get in the end zone in the NFL, either on the ground or through the air.
5) Eddie Lacy (Green Bay) The former Alabama back was difficult to place because of the ever-present shadow of the great Aaron Rodgers.
Many predict Lacy to be a top-tier RB in 2015 and I can see it happening, but I don’t expect him to have the output of the others above him on this list – mainly due to Rodgers’ greatness.
A year ago he had more than 1,500 yards combined and score 13 times, making him an elite back but it’s hard to see that number rising, particularly if Rodgers stays healthy for all of 2015.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the improving DaVonta Adams need to eat on the outside so Lacy’s opportunities will always be limited to an extent.
6) Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) There are a number of wideouts who could easily slot in at this position but with team mate Lev Bell outed for four weeks, Brown might just see a few more targets early in the season.
Such will be the reliance on Brown early on, he might surpass his 130-1700-13 numbers from last season, as remarkable as that sounds.
His punt returning exploits always leave you holding your breath just a little but he has player in 32 of 32 matches in the past two season’s, making him a reliable selection at any stage in the draft.
7) Julio Jones (Atlanta) Foot surgery in 2013 was the only thing that could slow Jones down in his first years in the NFL.
Now perched comfortably alongside the game’s great receivers, Jones is my tip to shine bright and surprise a few in 2015.
His receptions and yards were primetime in 2014 but he only had six scores, leaving some valuable fantasy points on the table.
I suspect that will change this year with Matt Ryan able to hit him in the end zone at least ten times.
100+ catches, 1500+ yards and around 10-12 scores will see him sit alongside any of the top WR’s in the game.
His deep ball ability is also a juicy thought as he is able to go and catch an 80-yard ball and impact the game despite potentially seeing double and triple coverage.
8) Demaryius Thomas (Denver) Thomas finally got his money after months of speculation.
Peyton Manning is back so you know Thomas will be getting his looks.
Thomas is unbelievably consistent at a high level with his last three season’s producing no worse than 90 catches and 1400 yards, thanks largely to Manning-thrown balls.
With Julius Thomas departing town for Jacksonville, DT will see even more balls thrown his way, particularly in the red zone.
A tantalising prospect for owners.
9) Matt Forte (Chicago) Often underrated and under appreciated, you only need look at the numbers to see Forte’s true worth to a fantasy squad.
A dual-threat back, Forte was Lev Bell before Lev Bell came along.
In a woeful year for Chicago, Forte still filled the box scores with almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage and ten scores, six on the deck and four through the air.
A Jay Cutler favourite in Brandon Marshall is gone so expect even more work for Forte, meaning more and more points for those comfortable in taking him in the top ten.
10) Rob Gronkowski (New England) I found it hard to place a tight end above elite receivers like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham but Gronk’s ability to score points makes him unique, particularly at a position where only a few players are valuable.
His health woes seems a distant memory and Tom Brady still lacks outside weapons which means 87 can expect to see another dozen targets each and every game.
Gronk’s 1,182 yards and a dozen scores set him apart from all TE’s bar Jimmy Graham meaning if you can secure quality wideout and running back talent later in the draft then you have yourself a unique advantage by selecting the big Gronkkkkkkk.